My friend, Steve Teicher on a visit to a Shiva temple. I could only get one ash stripe on his head before he stopped me. I told him to wipe it off since nothing is worse than going around a Shiva temple half-ashed.
Pune and a Visit to the Chief of Police: May 5th
Traveling again. Today I am in Pune, a city of 2 million people close to Bombay. We’re on a recruiting yatra (road-trip), and have been here two days. Pune is a wonderful city, and I have a close friends here, Sanjay and Namrata Aggarwal.
The visit brings back sweet memories of my first visit to India with Steve Garrison. We stood open-mouthed looking out Sanjay’s window as we tried vainly to absorb India. Fortunately for us, Sanjay’s 5 year old daughter Anthica had educated him on the art of answering silly questions:
"How do women ride bicycles when they wear a sari?"

"You’ll see them doing a lot more than riding a bicycle in sari!"

"What do the different colors on the cows horns mean?"

"They’re painted whatever color their owner wants"

"How does anyone hear the autoricks when all they have is a rubber horn?"


Coming back to Pune, I realize that it is indeed a beautiful city, filled with vibrancy and hospitality. Satish, my human resources person, and I both want to relocate here, and we have as the song goes, left our hearts here.
Pune is a town populated by "characters". Its most famous citizen, now deceased, is the infamous or famous "Osho", a.k.a. Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh of Oregon fame. Osho built his last remaining ashram here in Pune. Osho was not a fan of asceticism. In America, he used to make a big show of his fleet of Rolls-Royces. In keeping with this style, the Pune ashram, known as Rajneeshpuram is in the richest part of town, and is the one of the most beautifully designed and landscaped buildings I have seen in India. The extravagance required to support Rajneeshpuram requires lots of foreign capital, brought in chiefly by well-to-do daughters and wives from Germany and America. There are more whites per square meter in the blocks around Rajneeshpuram than there is in San Francisco.
Today we are being introduced to the Maharani Maheswari Devi, daughter of a Maharaja, and now married to the film actor Kulbushan Kharbanda (India’s equivalent of Telly Savalas). Kulbushan often plays the bad guy in the movies - he is best known to Americans as the villainous priest who fights the final battle with Indiana Jones in The Temple of Doom.
Kulbushan’s wife, the Maharani, is far from being villainous. About sixty, her original beauty is veiled by an accumulation of age and Indian sweets. Clearly, she is comfortable with her life; old money has bestowed her with graciousness, and a kind attitude. Her favorite hobby is remodeling the buildings on her estate, known locally as "the farmhouse". Her creativity has found a source and a sink in this place. She obtains her carpenters for six months at a time from the state of Rajasthan, bringing them here to Pune for substantial cash and a chance to do fine work.
Our final stop for the evening is dinner with the Chief of Police of Pune. The chief, a representative of real power in India, had invited us to dinner. His son needed advice about a business career in computers, and Satish and I were the resident counselors. Here was a chance to see another side of the Indian civil and governmental service.
The chief lives on an estate just slightly bigger than Osho’s. The car is stopped at the gate by five police sentries, who then wave us to an entry road just slightly shorter than the California interstate. We wander through acres of flowering trees and lawns, past more sentries every couple of minutes and eventually we end up at an estate that appears to be at least a hundred years old. Our car doors are opened, and two more police escort us, past a table with six phones (and yes folks, one of them was a clearly marked hot line) and into the waiting room.
The wood-framed house was built in the British Raj days, when there was no air-conditioning. The waiting room is built like an inverted ship’s hull. It is about 20 feet wide, 40 feet long and about 30 feet high, with two long lazy fans descending down to our height. Ventilators take the hot air out of the room at the ridge. I am now totally convinced that wealth in India can bring a lifestyle I would enjoy. We sit and wait for the police chief, and after a remarkably short ten minutes the family dog comes pitter-pattering out followed by the chief bounding out with smiles, and handshakes. Immediately, we go into the closest garden, bounded by GORGEOUS flowering shrubs that I have never seen before. Whiskey comes out, and all is well with the world. No one, but no one in the San Francisco bay area, has a house as beautiful as this. We gradually let the whiskey seep in, and listen to the police chief’s stories of army days and a policeman's burden.
The biggest worry for the chief was handling security for the elections for the Lok Sabha (the Congress) which were underway in Pune. Four years ago, when elections occurred, the BJP party started massive riots in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) by pitting Hindu against Moslem. Although Pune escaped from the political manipulation of the BJP, the impact of the riots lingers. Real estate prices have doubled in Pune, due to the citizens of Bombay buying needed escape and refuge.
This year’s elections have been much quieter. A strong-willed and unusually strict minister named Seshan has headed the Election Commission, the watchdog of the electoral process. Campaign spending is tightly controlled, and allowable budgets are very tiny. Public speaking and right of assembly must be approved. Posters and wall painting are firmly prohibited, as is any form of electronic public address system. Violators can and do have their campaign license revoked. Consequently you hardly know an election is going on — except for one thing, all public bars are dry and serving liquor is not allowed.
Simple enough, but how does a politician get the word out with out a PA system? One candidate for prime minister, Laloo Prasad Yadav, campaigns on an anti-technology platform, saying things to villagers like "electric power is an evil, it electrocutes your water buffaloes". Laloo’s simple solution to not having a PA system, was to hire a bunch of villagers to train parrots to say "Vote for Laloo", and then released the parrots to the masses.
The chief talked about the 1965 war, when he was a lieutenant fighting Pakistan and China. He talked about his soldiers and their incredible devotion; strafed by a Chinese Saber airplane, his private jumped over the chief’s body to protect him. "Rather I die sir, then our leader, sir"... The chief commented "people these days have no such loyalty". I wanted to say, "that’s because they’re all dead", but I held my tongue. Devotion is a pretty serious value in India.
Later we got to chatting about the Macintosh, and education. Most army education is by rote. The chief told us that as a colonel he had people salute continuously until it was instinctive. During the war he had a problem with deserters. His solution was simple; he told his crew to send a non-commissioned officer to walk on the railway station platform, and anyone in civilian clothes who saluted should be arrested.
I asked the chief how he went about recruiting officers. He talked about one officer he hired out of destitute poverty. The recruit’s father came to visit the chief and thanked him profusely. The recruit’s father now had new clothes, and his own water buffalo. He thanked the chief with a whole kilo of ghee (clarified butter-oil) from his new buffalo. The conversation then drifted to the quality of water-buffalo ghee, and which made better ghee, the water buffalo or the brahma cows...